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Assistive Technology: NCC empowering physically-challenged consumers for digital inclusion

Mr. Tijani Munguno, Deputy Director at NCC (r), Presenting the Donated ICT Equipment to Dr. James Lalu, Executive Secretary of NCPWD (middle), at the Commission's Headquaters, in Abuja, FCT Photo: NCC

*Dr. Aminu Maida, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission, asserts the recent donation of 50 sets of HP computer laptops to the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities will boost the digital capacity and communications of Persons With Disabilities, emphasising such adaptive or assistive technology tools are designed to ensure inclusivity in the ecosystem

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

In consonance with the Commission’s mandate to actualise digital inclusion of all categories of consumers, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), again, has demonstrated commitment to ensuring that all its services, programmes, and activities are accessible to Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in the country’s ecosystem.

The telecoms sector regulatory Commission Tuesday, May 7, 2024, donated 50 sets of HP computer laptops loaded with ‘accessibility software’ to the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD).

Photo: AugsBurg.Edu

ConsumerConnect reports the Commission’s efforts at empowering the PWDs are reflective of its recognition and alignment with the noble objectives of the establishment of NCPWD, as enabled by the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act of 2018, in Nigeria.

Dr. Aminu Maida, Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of NCC, donated the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) equipment when a delegation from the Commission paid a courtesy visit to the NCPWD Headquarters, in Abuja, FCT.

Represented on the delegation to the NCPWD office by Mr. Tijani Munguno, a Deputy Director at NCC, Dr. Maida disclosed that the provision of the ICT equipment was borne out of the Commission’s conviction that Persons With Disabilities required the adaptive or assistive technology tools.

The NCC Chief also noted that the equipment would boost digital communications expertise of such consumers, and further enable them to compete favourably in ICT market in the West African country, agency report said.

The donated ICT equipment, aside from building the digital capacity of PWDs, would equally support the Commission in its determination to achieve its mandate of strengthening digital communications for PWDs to boost their skills and ensure inclusivity in the ecosystem.

Maida also stated: “We recognised that in today’s world, access to digital technology is essential to providing quality output and efficiency.

“With these laptops, we hope we can make significant impact on disability community.” In his remarks at the event, Dr. James Lalu, Executive Secretary of NCPWD, expressed gratitude to the NCC delegation for the donation and support to PWDs.

Dr. Lalu restated his Commission’s commitment to partnering with NCC in order to advance the digital communications skills and knowledge of People With Disabilities.

The Executive Secretary later presented National Accessibility Manuals to the delegation to enable the NCC get acquainted with the accessibility standard guidelines in their various offices, report noted.

Insight into NCC’s E-Accessibility Programme to support PWDs

It is recalled the Nigerian Communications Commission, as part of efforts at empowering the People Living With Disabilities with digital inclusion under its E-Accessibility Programme, had disclosed it deployed 84 assistive Information Technology (IT) projects between 2012 and 2020 at different locations in the country.

According to the regulatory Commission, the aim was to support people with special needs, while formulating policies that enable “disadvantaged members of the society” to live a more qualitative life” in the digital ecosystem.

The NCC delegation on a courtesy visit to the NCPWD, in 2022, in Abuja, said: “The e-Accessibility project seeks to meet the ICT needs of persons living with disabilities in Nigeria by providing ICT tools, assistive technologies, training, and Internet provision in the identified locations.”

The Commission also restated its commitment to continually supporting people with special needs across the country.

The NCC further disclosed that within the organisation, aside from implementing the five percent inclusiveness of Persons With Disabilities in staffing efforts, through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), the NCC has executed several projects within the framework of its E-Accessibility Programme in 10 years, targeting the challenged members of the society.

“In other words, the project provides ICT tools and Assistive Technologies (ATs) to the blind, the deaf, dumb, crippled, cognitively impaired, and other categories of people living with disabilities.

“As disadvantaged members of society, the project is designed to assist in improving the quality of life of people living with disability,” said the Commission.

Dr. Lalu, who also led a team to the NCC Head Office, affirmed the telecoms regulator has always implemented initiatives aimed at ensuring digital inclusivity for all Nigerians regardless of their circumstances.

The NCPWD’s Executive Secretary said the purpose of the agency’s visit was to keep the NCC Management abreast of its mandates and activities, while seeking greater collaborations with the regulatory Commission for the benefits of estimated 35.5 million persons with disabilities in Nigeria.

He commended the NCC for the “wonderful work it has been doing through various projects in support of people with disabilities in the country”, as he further appealed to the NCC to help in creating awareness among telecoms service providers to comply with the legal requirement to dedicate five per cent of their employment quota to persons with disabilities.

Lalu averred that this category of Nigerians are “smart, professional and intelligent” and could make significant contribution to the growth of the respective organisations employing them, despite their disabilities.

Essentials of adaptive or assistive technology tools for PWDs

ConsumerConnect reports adaptive or assistive technology encompasses hardware and software designed to assist individuals who have difficulty accessing information systems using conventional methods.

According to the United States (US) Congress, the first passed Technology Related Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (Tech Act) describes an assistive technology device as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, off the shelf, modified, or customised, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”

It cited other examples of adaptive or assistive technology to include magnifiers, talking devices such as a talking thermostat, Braille displays, screen reading software, text-to-speech systems using Optical Character Recognition (OCR), large print materials, and. phones with large tactile buttons.

The US Tech Act, for instance, states the mini keyboards can be used by people with a small range of hand movement, and screen readers can be used by people who are blind or dyslexic.

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